Saturday, June 18, 2011

Building Your Membership on Solid Ground

Posted by Princess Eva Angelica at 1:27 PM
How can you build a sustainable membership? Here is one way of going about it. Build your organization around an idea instead of around a specific product or around a specific job or industry.

This type of foundation may explain why IBM is enjoying its 100th anniversary – an unusual feat in the rapidly changing technology world.

“IBM’s secret is that it is built around an idea that transcends any particular product or technology. Its strategy is to package technology for use by businesses. At first this meant making punch-card tabulators, but IBM moved on to magnetic-tape systems, mainframes, PCs, and most recently services and consulting. Building a company around an idea, rather than a specific technology, makes it easier to adapt when industry ‘platforms shirts’ occur.”1.

Interestingly, as I observe organizations that I have worked with over the years, I can see the good outcomes using this concept. Many of the memberships that are tied directly to a profession -- like the American Society of Professional (Fill in the Name) – have risen and fallen with the profession. But groups that are tied to a concept like curriculum, medical information, or quality have seen expansion over the past decade.

The story that I quoted from above was published in The Economist. Here is their concept; they were “founded in 1843, with the idea of explaining the world to its readers.” That is a need which will never go away. 

As the speed of change increases, think in terms of transcendent ideas and concepts as you build your membership value proposition instead of the latest trend. Build on solid ground instead of sinking sand.

1. The Economist, The Test of Time, June 11-17, 2011, p 20.
2. Ibid.

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